Swimming World has uncovered evidence of another DeBruin scandal that dates back to July of 1996, just before the 1996 Olympic Games. Here’s what was known at the time: In early July, DeBruin swam a 400m freestyle time trial at a meet in Florida in which she dropped her time from her previous best of 4:26 to 4:08, the world’s fastest time of the year up to that point. The IOC allowed DeBruin to enter the 400 free in Atlanta despite the fact that the swim was done after the absolute cut-off date for qualifying swims. Protests by the U.S., Germany and other countries were denied. DeBruin went on to win the 400 free in Atlanta, one of three gold medals she won, edging Germany’s Dagmar Hase.
It turns out, there is more to the story. According to a high USA Swimming official, it is not clear that the qualifying swim ever took place. If it did take place, it is clear that the swim was not sanctioned by any sanctioning body, that appropriate officials were not present, and that electronic timing was not used. (Electronic timing is required for a performance to be considered valid for Olympic qualification.) Reliable sources in Ireland and Florida confirm this story.
The swim supposedly took place on July 7, 1996. The sanction was for a meet that occurred on July 5-6 at Pinecrest, Florida. Eventually, a print out with DeBruin’s time was produced, but it lacked any split times. According to Alice Kempthorne, the Florida Gold Coast OVC (official verification card) writer and sanctions person, “the time could not possibly have been a valid time. The swim was not sanctioned, proper procedures were not followed, electronic timing was not used. There is no independent evidence that she actually swam that time.” If there was a swim, it was hand-timed.
Apparently, one swimming official from the Florida Gold Coast LSC was reprimanded by USA Swimming last year.